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N.C. Science Festival features 300 events, from astronomy to zoology

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  • N.C. Science Festival

    All the details – including day-to-day-schedules of events across the state – are at

There was a time when science fairs were the sole way to tickle the fancies of students and steer them toward careers in science and technology.

When Jonathan Frederick was a kid in Harrisburg, Pa., he won an award for his project. “It was an experiment that determined whether my cat was left- or right-pawed. I put his food in small cups he’d have to knock over to get to.”

Now 39, this former owner of a right-pawed cat – and former in-tank speaker at a Florida aquarium, and most recently a staffer at UNC’s Morehead Planetarium – is director of the North Carolina Science Festival. The event is a 16-day educational blitz that this month fields roughly 300 events statewide.

The goal is to spur bright kids’ interest in technical fields and to make all ages of people more aware of the impact all sciences have on everyday life.

After a trial run in September 2010, the N.C. Science Festival launched in April 2012 and – starting this week – is now an annual event.

Actually, it’s an collection of events staged in towns, cities and wildlife areas from Bryson City and Burnsville in the mountains to Nags Head and Ocracoke on the Outer Banks. Museums and science centers are heavily involved, as are clubs, library systems, colleges and universities. Corporate sponsors help foot the bill.

The emphasis is on reaching families, and the festival initially had a K-12 emphasis. That outreach has grown to engage collegians, parents and grandparents.

There are even science-oriented tours of the Carolina Brewing Company in Holly Springs and the April 18 “Science of Wine-Making (and Tasting) Tour” at SciWorks in Winston-Salem.

“Our goal,” Frederick said, “is to have a really cool event within a 30-minute ride of every North Carolinian.”

Here’s a small sample of upcoming events up close to your home.

April 5

Hydrogen to Copernicum: The World of Chemistry on Postage Stamps.” Dr. Daniel Rabinovich, professor of inorganic chemistry at UNC Charlotte, gives a program on how postage stamps are used to inform the public on a variety of topics, including history of chemistry, the discovery and sources of the elements, chemical structures and formulas, laboratory equipment and biochemistry. Free. 3 p.m., Room 132, Grigg Hall, UNCC campus.

April 6

“The Science of the Very, Very Small.” Hands-on event at Discovery Place explores nanotechnology with fun at activity stations. Free with museum admission: $12; $10 for kids. 10 a.m. (also 9 a.m. April 5, noon April 7 and 9 a.m. April 8). 301 N. Tryon St., Charlotte.

“Catawba Science Center’s Science Inquiry Expo.” Try hands-on activities that tie the sciences – everything from polymers to butterflies to weather – to your everyday world. $7, $5 for kids (admission includes free pass to the CSC’s planetarium). 10 a.m., Catawba Science Center, 243 3rd Ave. NE, Hickory.

April 7

“From the Inside Out: A Day of Dissections.” Learn how body systems work; animals including sharks, frogs and fetal pigs will be dissected. Free with admission: $12; $10 for kids. Noon-5 p.m. at Discovery Place.

April 8

“Learning How to do e-Science in a Virtual World.” Dr. Mirsad Hadzikadic, dean emeritus for the College of Computing and Informatics at UNCC, gives a public talk on various aspects of the application of computational methods to scientific exploration and discovery in the social and natural sciences. Free. 7 p.m., Room 132, Grigg Hall, UNCC campus.

April 9

“N.C. Manufacturing Celebration.” Tour the Engineering Department at Central Piedmont Community College and speak with faculty and staff members about the career opportunities in advanced manufacturing. Free. 9:30 a.m. at the Advanced Technology Center, 1241 Charlottetown Ave.

April 10

“The Particle at the End of the Universe.” Caltech physicist and writer Sean Carroll will discuss his latest book, “The Particle at the End of the Universe” and the hunt for the Higgs boson and what its discovery may mean. Free. 7 p.m. Room G256, Energy Production and Infrastructure Center at UNCC.

April 12

“The Science of Baseball.” Watch the Kannapolis Intimidators play the Hickory Crawdads ... while you learn how and why a curveball curves, how to mathematically calculate a pitcher’s ERA, the technology behind a wooden bat and more. Tickets: $10-$12; $9 for kids. 7 p.m., East Stadium, 2888 Moose Road, Kannapolis.

April 14

“Avian Adventure.” Learn about birds from experts and see birds from organizations such as Carolina Raptor Centerand the Mecklenburg Audubon Society. Free. 2 p.m. at Discovery Place.

April 15

“How Not to be Seen: The History and Science of Invisibility.” UNCC optical science professor Greg Gbur will speak on invisibility and whether a “cloak” of sorts could be developed that could perhaps shield objects from radar detection or from electromagnetic or sound waves. Free. 7:30 p.m., Room 105, Bioinformatics building, UNCC.

April 17

“Weather Maps for Infectious Disease.” Dr. Daniel Janies, UNCC professor of bioinformatics and genomics, offers a public talk about these two fields – emerging information systems that can be used to study and map the evolution and spread of specific bacteria and viruses. Free. 7 p.m., Room 132, Grigg Hall, UNCC.

April 19

“Carowinds Education Days.” The Charlotte-area theme park teams up with Discovery Place for a day where students can gain a greater understanding of the basics of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in a fun and interactive setting. Admission: $28.99 per participant. 9 a.m. (also 9 a.m. April 12) at Carowinds.

April 20

“An Evening with Alton Brown: The Science of Cooking.” The host of “Good Eats” on the Food Network will speak on kitchen science and more; a question-answer session with the audience will follow. Admission: $32.50-$150 per ticket. 7:30 p.m., Knight Theater at the Levine Center for the Arts, 430 S. Tryon St.

April 21

“UNC Charlotte Science & Technology Expo.” Try dozens of hands-on activities and interactive displays developed by UNCC faculty and students. You can buy food at the all-day event. Free. 10 a.m., the UNCC Education Mall, 9201 University City Blvd.

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